Thursday, 5 January 2017

Does Your Gender Affect Your Writing Success?

Here is a loaded question, and I would be very interested to receive some responses in the comments below. I am currently reading On Writing by Stephen King, and I have reached the section of the book where he tells us that if we are serious about writing, we actually have to do it. We cannot keep putting it off and blaming our life circumstances, our lack of free time, and all the other millions of excuses we come up with.

Now, I totally agree with that. But one sentence in King’s book struck a chord. He wrote that he was fortunate to have a “self-sufficient wife” and she allowed him to hide away and write whenever he needed to. They have children, and he wrote his novels and short stories since before they were born and throughout their lives. Did his wife shoulder the parental responsibility, and do all the boring, everyday essential tasks of caring for the children before he found fame and fortune?

I would say that I have a self-sufficient husband. In fact, he is so self-sufficient that I am often left at home with the children, and I do 99% of the household chores, nurturing, caring, doctors’ appointments, etc. My husband simply works, in a demanding job that takes him away from the family home for anything up to sixteen hours every day, five days a week. He then spends the weekends ‘catching up’ on his personal affairs, and sleeping because he so exhausted from working all week. But he provides the income, and I must accept that.

In order to follow Stephen King’s advice, I need to change that model of behaviour. My husband refuses to make his work hours more flexible, or even to book time off that he is legally allowed (that is a whole other saga!). He did recently have a pay rise, however. Our cashflow is not brilliant, but if I am to look at the bigger picture, I need some help with childcare. To that end, I plan to investigate the costs of childcare, and see what I can fit around preschool and school. Then perhaps I can find time to finish the manuscripts I have languishing on my hard drive, and finally get my career established professionally.

How do you fit writing in around family and work?

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  1. Hi Catherine, I've read Stephen King's book 'On Writing' and I think it's fantastic. I think you have to take what he says about having a self-sufficient wife with a very large pinch of salt. He and his wife did struggle financially during the early part of his writing life - I'm sure he snatched odd chunks of time to write the stories that he started earning money with. I can't remember if he specifies the amount of time he spent on childcare etc. "Self-sufficient" probably means that she wasn't demanding of his time when he needed to be alone writing. But I also think every writer has their own individual journey and you have to find the bits of time that fit in with the given circumstances of your own life. I have heard of a number of very successful female novelists who produced novels while juggling their writing time with looking after young children, by writing late at night etc.... or so they say. It's dangerous to compare ourselves with others. When people describe their circumstances they can often leave out important details that would radically change the way others might view it. None of us can really make excuses for ourselves - if we are passionate about writing it will have a strong impact on our lives. I think you are already doing a huge amount, both as a writer, and in terms of self-promotion. But just remember this: "never compare yourself with others because you don't know what journey they are on."

    1. Thank you for the feedback, Sheila. Yes, I completely agree, and perhaps I was feeling a little sensitive when I read this blog post. Being a writer and a housewife certainly is a roller-coaster of emotions, to coin a popular term. At this stage I am working out my place in the world, both as a writer and a mother.